Joyce Murray, Liberal leadership candidate and millionaire:
Still, Brinkman stresses that he and Murray are not rolling in dough. Their company's profits are mostly reinvested in environmental restoration projects, some of them undertaken for free for First Nations and others.
"We're not formally a social enterprise but we do tend to take any profits we're making and look at where can we do something," Brinkman said in an interview.
The couple also own a $1.4-million home in Murray's notoriously pricey Vancouver Quadra riding.
"We're not wealthy," said Brinkman. "If you were to look at our home here, it looks more like a cottage than it looks like a big home, though it's a comfortable home."
According to your friends and mine at the Government of Canada: "In 2005, the median assets of Canadian families was $229,930 and the median debt was $44,500. Their median net worth was $148,350."
That would mean that Joyce Murray and her husband Dirk Brinkman are, based solely on the value of their home, 9.4 times wealthier than the average Canadian family. Their overall net worth, including their forestry business, is about $5 million. That means they are 33.7 times wealthier than the average Canadian family. Yet according to Mr Brinkman they're not wealthy.
Even by the over-the-top standards of the Vancouver real estate market, the Brinkman-Murray family is rich as blazes. Richer than Dauphin Trudeau. Glancing at the other major candidates we see that most are children of privilege, though not necessarily wealth. Marc Garneau's father was a Brigadier-General, though he claims not to have gotten a cent from daddy. Martha Hall Findlay came from an affluent background, though her parents divorced at a young age and she had to pay her own way through school.
With the exception of no-hoper George Takach, the Liberal leadership candidates are what they seem to be: upper middle class WASPs with the odd old stock Quebecois thrown in. Basically the people who have been running Canada since Wolfe bested Montcalm. Compared to my family background they're all a bunch of rich spoiled bastards. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. You can choose your friends but you can't choose your parents.
The reproach against the sons and daughters of privilege is that they haven't earned it. An easy life without the hard fight upwards. In a nominally meritocratic society we prefer people whose backgrounds shade more toward Horatio Alger rather than Brideshead Revisited. Our culture has a strong inbuilt bias against those who were born rich, or even just in the upper middle class. Whereas in previous generations, and in most traditional societies, people exaggerate the wealth and prestige of their families, in modern North America people instead exaggerate the poverty and social insignificance of their families. Thus the absurdity of Dirk Brinkman claiming he isn't wealthy.
I'm not rich, it's the other guy who's rich. I'm just comfortable.
The basic argument against those to the manor born is that they were lucky. Their success is due to luck and not to character or work ethic. It's a thought that provides great psychological comfort to many ordinary people. Hey, there's nothing wrong with me, it's just dumb luck that the other guy lives in a big house. That might be true, it might not be. Many people, however, need to believe in dumb luck otherwise their lives would seem like failures. This plays more than a small part in our culture's envy toward the richly born.
Yet it's all rather silly. Luck is luck. It's a factor in human success like any other. Most of us are very lucky and most of us are very unlucky. To have been born a citizen of Canada is to have won the lottery of life. Even the most miserable wretch on a remote aboriginal reserve, or terrified single mother in an urban ghetto, has opportunities that the poor of Africa, India and Asia could only begin to dream about.
If you begrudge the rich bastard for having inherited a million dollars from daddy, remember how lucky you are compared to the global average. The gap between how you live and how the average African lives is far greater than between you and Justin Trudeau. The Dauphin's house might be a little bigger, the car he drives to work a bit pricier (I'm ignoring that gorgeous Mercedes he inherited) and he has a few more gadgets than you. You and Justin have all your basics pretty well covered. The Son of Pierre has a few extras. He was a bit luckier than you. Both you and he were far luckier than the poor sucker born in the slums of Lagos.
Even amongst Canadians of similar social backgrounds luck plays an important role. The beautiful have an advantage over the ugly. The intelligent over the stupid. The strong over the weak. While in-born attributes can be honed and enhanced, they cannot as of yet be completely overcome. The dumbest creature will, through no fault of their own, have certain opportunities denied to him because of an accident of birth. He is very unlucky in that respect, though luckier than those born with severe and crippling diseases.
Being born rich is certainly an advantage, one this son of a Portuguese cleaning lady never had. But then again being born rich and stupid is a significant disadvantage. In my university days, how long ago they were, I quickly lost track of the number of dumb, rich WASP kids. They were terribly fun to watch. They'd drink themselves stupid, take political science degrees and still get cushy internships. I absolutely hated their guts.
A few cleaned up their act and are now obscenely well paid. Some of those are even doing useful and demanding work. Good for them. No, really. Most of these spoiled WASPs crashed and burned. As I recall one quite literally crashed and burned his sports car on the QEW. Were these rich bastards luckier than me? Some were, most weren't. They got into the sort of weird trouble only rich kids can get into.
When I look at Justin Trudeau, who has drifted through life without much effort, I regard him with a mixture of contempt and pity. The contempt because he is attempting to do something he is manifestly unqualified to do. The pity because of his obvious shortcomings. He's not terribly bright. Whatever accomplishments he has in life will be because of his name. I would hate to have that burden. Not for all his wealth would I trade my parents for his. I think most of you probably feel the same way.
Luck is what we can't control, character is what we can and life is the result. Don't hate the rich kids too much, they were just lucky in a different way.